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Farsons Beer Festival - a report (of some sort!)

The inaugural Farsons Great Beer Festival took place in 1981 at the Farsons Brewery in Mriehel. Over the years, it found its home in different locations, including Tigne in Sliema and Ta' Xbiex Marina. However, since 2001, the festival has found its permanent residence at Ta' Qali Park, where it has flourished to become the largest summer festival in Malta. It has solidified its position as a prominent fixture in the island's summer calendar.

Every night during the festival, Malta's esteemed artists and bands take the stage, showcasing their talents to the enthusiastic crowd. This musical extravaganza has been hosted on two stages since 2001, providing even more opportunities for performers to shine.

One remarkable aspect of the festival is its commitment to nurturing new talent. Aspiring bands and artists are granted the chance to perform in front of a sizable audience, serving as a steppingstone for their careers. This year's edition witnessed one of these up-and-coming bands open the festival which has persisted for an impressive 42 years, with the exception of the years affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This longevity establishes the festival as the most enduring music-related event on the islands.

The purpose of this diary-style write-up is to document the performances of this year's bands on the Rock Stage. The reason for focusing on this stage is that I spend most of my time here, particularly on the days when I am responsible for playing music before and between bands.

Through this diary, I aimed to create a recorded account of the musical renditions taking place on the Rock Stage. It will serve as a historical record, capturing the essence of the festival and the artists who graced this iconic platform. All too often, we take such moments for granted, and I hope this diary will preserve the memories and significance of this vibrant event for years to come.

Unfortunately, due to prior commitments, I couldn't attend every night of the festival. However, in this write-up, I will cover the nights I was present, whether I attended as an audience member or participated in an official capacity.

DAY ONE - 27th July

photo: Matea Blazhevska

Delirium MT's momentous debut on a grand stage marked the exciting commencement of this year's Farsons Beer Festival. Originally formed in 2019, the band unveiled their first album, titled 'State of Delirium,' on the 17th of September 2022. At the onset of this year, following some lineup changes, the band decided to rebrand themselves as Delirium MT.

Their captivating setlist predominantly featured tracks from their album, but they also treated the audience to a new song titled 'The Deceased' and a stellar rendition of Arch Enemy's 'The Eagle Flies Alone.'

After their electrifying performance, I had the opportunity to speak with members of the band. Their adrenaline was still surging, and it was evident that they were overjoyed by the resounding success of their first ever performance at the Farsons Beer Festival, leaving them elated and gratified.

photo: Maria Baldacchino

The subsequent band has a proud history spanning 28 years, starting their journey in 1995. During this time, they have released three demos and four studio albums, all of which were well-received between 2000 and 2015. However, after 2015, the band underwent some member changes, which temporarily disrupted their activities.

With a newly stabilized lineup, the band wasted no time and began working on fresh material. Sadly, their plans to perform these new songs live were put on hold due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, which brought the music industry to a standstill.

It wasn't until February 2022, when events started to get back to normality, that they graced the stage once again. At this year's Farsons Beer Festival, they showcased six of their latest creations, leaving the audience in awe. The highlight of their set was an epic progressive metal opus inspired by the legend of Matteo Falzon. This remarkable piece was performed live on stage for the second time ever (if I’m not mistaken).

This powerful song will be featured on their upcoming fifth album, which promises to center around Maltese tales and folklore themes. Anticipated to be released in early 2024, the album is eagerly awaited by their devoted fanbase.

photo: Paula Lucia

The final band to grace the stage on the first night was the esteemed doom veterans, Forsaken, celebrating their impressive thirty-second year in the music scene. Throughout their illustrious journey, they have amassed an impressive discography, including 2 demos, 2 EPs, a split with the Finnish band Fall Of The Idols, and five studio albums. Their latest offering, 'Pentateuch,' was released in 2017.

This performance was highly anticipated, as it marked their first show in 13 months, since their appearance at the Haunting The Theatre Metal Fest in June 2022. From the moment they stepped on stage on Thursday, their professionalism shone through, and it was evident that they were relishing the experience of being back in the limelight.

Their setlist comprised a compelling collection of songs from their various releases, tracks that the attendees knew by heart and joyously sang along to throughout the night. The atmosphere was electric, and the crowd's enthusiasm was palpable.

As the night reached its pinnacle, Forsaken closed their set with the epic 'Via Crucis', but the despite of the time the crowd wanted more and the band obliged with a captivating Black Sabbath medley (featuring 'Black Sabbath' and 'Symptom Of The Universe', much to the delight of everyone present. Their remarkable performance brought the curtain down on a truly fantastic metal night at the Farsons Beer Festival, leaving attendees with lasting memories of an unforgettable musical experience.

In conclusion (of the first day), the bands on the first night expressed satisfaction with the sound quality on stage, although there were some issues with the sound outside that could have been improved. Unfortunately, there were holdups between bands caused by technical problems, leading to a delay in both Weeping Silence and Forsaken sets. As a result, the performances extended into the early hours of Friday. Despite these challenges, the bands' professionalism and dedication shone through, ensuring that the audience still had an enjoyable and memorable first night of music at the Farsons Beer Festival.

DAY FIVE - 31st July

photo: Noel Mifsud

Gordon O’Reilly on guitars and vocals, Ray ‘Il-Bazzu’ on drums, and Dylan Ray Galea on bass make up the dynamic trio known as Drowning Sorrows. Combining elements of Heavy Metal, Punk, and Rock ‘N’ Roll, this band consistently delivers an outstanding and electrifying performance every time I have had the pleasure of witnessing them on stage.

Their journey in the music scene began with a memorable debut gig at the Rock City & Metal City Festivals at City Theatre in Valletta in March 2022. From that moment on, they have been leaving their mark on the island's hard rock and heavy metal scene. During the fifth day of the Farsons Beer Festival, they once again proved their prowess opening the night with a hard-hitting show.

Their setlist included their debut single 'Animal,' which was released on August 1st of the previous year thus making this appearance a sort of commemoration of the first anniversary of 'Animal’. Alongside this, they showcased six other original Drowning Sorrows songs. The audience was also treated to the band's trademark sound on two impressive covers: 'White Lightning' by J. P. Richardson (the Big Bopper) and the iconic 'Heroes' by David Bowie. It was a performance that left a lasting impression, showcasing their talent and musical diversity.

photo: Noel Mifsud

Death metal outfit Bound To Prevail came together in 2014. On July 1st, 2016, the band unveiled their self-titled debut demo comprising two songs: 'Survival of the Sickest,' which gained substantial airplay on several metal radio shows on the island, and 'Contorted Divergence.' Subsequently, on August 25th, 2017, the band released their first full-length album entitled 'Omen of Iniquity', from which, they played 'The Throne Were Gods Bleed' and 'Irreverent Progeny,' during their performance at the Farsons Beer Festival. The band's set also featured eight new tracks, all sourced from their yet-to-be-released album, 'Enthroned in Torment.'

In recent years, Bound To Prevail has primarily focused on participating in festivals abroad. Notably, they performed at the Death Feast Open Air in Andernach, Germany, during their 2022 tour, and they were also part of the final Tolmin edition of Metaldays. Their next scheduled performance will be at The Garage on the opening day of the Malta Death Festival, on October 6th.

photo: Noel Mifsud

The brutal death metal onslaught continued as Abysmal Torment took the stage. Founded in the year 2000, the band released their debut EP, 'Incised Wound Suicide,' four years later. Their first full-length album, 'Epoch of Methodic Carnage,' followed in February 2006, released under the Brutal Bands label. Over the years, Abysmal Torment treated their fans to three more powerful full-length albums, culminating with 'The Misanthrope,' which was released on September 21, 2018.

Their latest performance at The Garage on June 3rd, supported by the emerging band Halcyon and as on that day the band delivered an intense setlist on stage at the Farsons Beer Festival, comprising tracks from their four full-length albums. They kicked off the show with the title track from their latest work 'The Misanthrope,'. Throughout the night, the crowd was enthralled as they played several more songs from their impressive discography. Notably, Abysmal Torment also unveiled a new song called 'Vermin,' which is set to be included in their upcoming EP, due for release soon.

Excitement builds for Abysmal Torment's next performance scheduled for October, where they will take part in the much-anticipated return of the Malta Death Festival. Fans can expect an electrifying display of their relentless and signature death metal sound.

Describing the day as brutal would be an understatement; it was an extraordinary prelude to the highly anticipated Malta Death Festival. The sound quality throughout the day surpassed that of the festival's opening night, leaving all the bands delighted with their performances on stage. Although there were some timekeeping hiccups, which might impact attendance, particularly during the last band's set, overall, it was an incredible night of metal. This was evident from the enthusiastic participation of the crowd in front of the stage, as massive moshpits erupted during the performances of Bound To Prevail and Abysmal Torment.

DAY 7 - 2nd August - Night Of The Classics

photo: Noel Mifsud

Atomic Flame's third gig illuminated the opening of Night Of The Classics at this year's Farsons Beer Festival. They delivered a captivating performance, showcasing a dynamic set primarily comprised of original compositions that will feature on their forthcoming debut album, scheduled for release in the not-so-distant future. The group, consisting of accomplished musicians, witnessed Lawrence Baldacchino commanding the drums, Charles Buttigieg skillfully handling the bass—both stalwarts with extensive careers in Malta's rock scene spanning multiple decades. Nigel 'Noogie' Buttigieg skillfully managed both guitar and vocal duties, while the lineup was completed by the inclusion of Sicilian-born Marco Mulè.

Before this memorable spectacle, the band marked their debut on stage in January, sharing the spotlight with Valiantis. This performance immediately signaled the band's seriousness and determination from the very outset. Furthermore, they also took to the stage alongside Delirium MT on the 27th of May, 2023. The band shall be back on stage on the 20th September during Damaged & Co. Present: Cirque De L'Independance alongside Swiss Melodic Black/Death Metal band Heathen Heretic and hosts Damaged & Co.

photo: Noel Mifsud

Taking the stage next were the eminent figures of Prog Rock, Mirage. The group came together in the year 1977 and remained active for a decade before embarking on a hiatus that endured until 2010. Presently, the lineup consists of the twin brothers Andrew (handling guitars and vocals) and Michael (managing drums), accompanied by their father and founding members Jon Vella Zarb on bass, Denis Vella on keyboards, and guitarist Robert Longo.

In my perspective, Mirage stood out as the highlight in terms of sound quality from all the occasions I have attended. Their performance showcased a distinctive setlist, notably different from their previous appearance at this year's Rock The South event in May. This time around, their repertoire leaned heavily towards original classics, including notable tracks like "Ashes," "River Of Light," "In An Empty House," and "For Absent Friends."

photo: Noel Mifsud

Lord Adder remained steadfast in fulfilling their commitment: "In 2019, Lord Adder made a triumphant return, and their momentum has not waned since. Their objective is to infuse the music scene with their potent brand of heavy metal, and they have no intentions of decelerating in the foreseeable future," as stated by Mark Spiteri.

photo: Mark Spiteri

This marked the band's second appearance on the Farsons Beer Festival stage. It's worth noting that Mark has graced the festival platform twice more, once with The Bristles and making a guest appearance with the Rock Troupers. Having recently graced the stage at The Garage on the 24th of June, the band's performance at the festival exuded a brilliant blend of heavy metal energy and charisma. Notably, this concert serves as their final show on the island, with their next performance scheduled for The Midi Festival in China come September.

In wrapping up, I can't think of a more fitting way to sum things up than by sharing the sentiments of Lee Dorrian (known for his association with Napalm Death and Cathedral). While enjoying his holiday on the island, he made a visit to the festival grounds and when he noticed Mirage on the lineup. Fondly recalling their music from as far back as 1982 with 'For Absent Friends,' he relished the performances of all three bands. Undoubtedly, it was a night of timeless excellence!

DAY 8 - 3rd August

photo: Rachel Mifsud

Let's rewind the clock by six years, to a scorching August evening, when Repugnance last took the stage. Back in 2019, the band had been slated to perform at Deathfest Open Air, yet circumstances forced them to cancel at the eleventh hour. Thus, this occasion marked a triumphant return for the Brutal Death Metal group, which initially formed in 2011. With nearly all the tracks performed that night stemming from their debut full-length album, "Shrouds of Deceit," released on May 24th, 2019, the set culminated with the powerful 'Priest Of Impurity,' a track hailing from the Seeds of Oppression EP, released on February 18th, 2014, via Anopsys Records. Right from the outset, it was unmistakable that the band was poised to deliver a captivating performance. Their six-year hiatus seemed like a mere handful of days, setting the stage for their upcoming gig in October (details yet to be revealed).

During this interim period, the band is diligently composing and piecing together songs with the objective of releasing them next year.

photo: Rachel Mifsud

Revitalized by the recent addition of Zain Gauci on drums, Chaotic Remains took the stage after Repugnance, unleashing a potent dosage of Death Metal. The band's performance consisted of fresh tracks from their forthcoming album, which is now nearing its final stages of development. Among these was 'Blood And Gore,' a single released on November 20th, 2021.

Hailing back to their formation in 2008, Chaotic Remains burst into the scene with their highly acclaimed debut album 'We Are Legion' on December 1st, 2017. Their most recent live appearance was in April, where they supported the Spanish Melodic Doom Death metal ensemble Evadne at The Garage. Before that, the band had a notable role on February 11th as one of two special guests during the inaugural album launch event for 'Life's Grand Delusion' by Damaged & Co. The other featured band was Viper Soup Complex.

photo: Rachel Mifsud

Martyrium stands out as one of the most seasoned bands within the realm of extreme music in our country. Established in 1999, the band has unveiled a total of five full-length albums. Their latest creation, 'Lamia Satanica,' emerged on March 19th, 2021, under the banner of Art Gates Records. This release marked the return of Norwegian vocalist Sandra Stensen, who had previously fronted the band in 2018. Notably, she played a significant role in crafting the compositions on 'Lamia Satanica,' from which the majority of the setlist performed at the Farsons Beer Festival was drawn. During the event, the band introduced two new tracks, 'Triad Of Stygian Fires' and 'Thrice God’s Voice Denied,' both of which will find a place in their forthcoming album. News concerning the album's launch is anticipated by year-end, with work on it already at an advanced stage.

Before gracing the Farsons Beer Festival stage, Martyrium's most recent performance had been in Erba, Italy, where they shared the limelight with three other bands: Slovakia's Doomas, alongside Italy's Chronic Hate and Necroshine, on May 13th. Returning to the Thursday night show, the band delivered the exceptional performance they are renowned for. As with every previous encounter I've had the privilege to witness, they did not fail to impress.

Just as Monday showcased its brutality, Thursday echoed the sentiment with three exceptional performances from the depths of the underground extreme metal scene, a facet our island can rightfully take pride in. All three bands that graced the stage that night, much like the previously mentioned acts, gave nothing short of their absolute best. Despite less-than-optimal sound conditions, the dedication and skill exhibited by every performer and musician on the Rock Stage at the Farsons Beer Festival 2023 remained unblemished.

Regrettably, the festival's final day, slated for Saturday, August 5th, had to be called off due to severe winds that posed a risk of damage or injuries, rendering it impossible for the organizers to continue with the event.


As with any festival, the Farsons Beer Festival, too, has its share of pros and cons that contribute to its overall experience. Fortunately, the scales tip in favor of the positive aspects, notably the commendable selection of bands. However, it's worth noting that some avoidable drawbacks did arise, underscoring the need for heightened attention and meticulous planning. These observations aren't intended as criticism towards the festival's organization, but rather as constructive suggestions to enhance future editions.

Turning to the dressing room in the backstage area, there's little to fault, though one could argue that accommodating three bands simultaneously might have been a stretch due to its modest size. Each musical act prepares differently, and in the future, considering an instrument storage facility could alleviate the issue of musicians from different bands inadvertently crossing paths while retrieving their equipment.

It is worth commending the efficient handling of beverages and other services towards bands and other staff backstage, a task that was flawlessly managed.

Speaking of the allocated grounds in the backstage area, the challenge arises when moving equipment to and from the stage. While the space was ample, the absence of a direct exit point for vehicles posed a hurdle. Bands had to unload their gear, relocate their vehicles to the designated parking area outside the festival grounds (on the opposite side), contributing to the inconvenience of instruments obstructing the allocated dressing room already mentioned. This had to be done way before the doors were due to open for the public. And as mentioned although there was ample room backstage area for bands' vehicles, they had to wait until attendees dispersed before driving through the festival area to collect their equipment.

A common complaint echoing throughout the festival was the quality of sound emanating from the stage. It is undeniable that it fell short of optimal, prompting a suggestion for organizers to inform confirmed bands about who the sound engineer shall be on the night and provide the option to bring their own.

A notion that has long lingered is the absence of band merchandise during the festival. This would be one of the few occasions these bands have to sell their merch. And wouldn't it be fitting to offer attendees the chance to purchase t-shirts, hoodies, and other items adorned with the year's festival poster on the front and the list of bands and stages on the back (as is custom in other festivals)? Some might argue that it is first and foremost a beer festival. True but would it be the same without the music provided by the bands?

Shifting to the topic of stages, while there was initial buzz about three stages, it came to light that there was, in fact, an additional one. It raises questions as to why this fourth stage and the artists performing on it were not adequately mentioned in the festival buildup.

In conclusion, despite its imperfections, the festival remains a cherished summer tradition, consistently offering one of the most enjoyable multi-day experiences year after year.

Should you, dear reader wish to comment, please feel free to do so in the comments section below.

Did you visit the festival grounds during the festival? We value your opinion?

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